Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Once Upon a Very Long Time Ago

Fairy stories have been around for a very long time but exactly how long?  The one thing we can be sure of is that most of them existed long before they were written down, especially given that many only entered print (in Europe at least) with the work of collectors and embellishers like Marie-Jeanne L'Héritier and her uncle Charles Perrault in the 18th Century and the Brothers Grimm in the 19th.


 But now the BBC reports that researchers at Durham University believe that, using "phylogenetic comparative methods" they have found evidence that some tales might be up to 5,000 years old.  Given that the techniques used were borrowed from biology and that, in the absence of some storytelling Rip van Winkle from the Bronze Age, we're never going to get definitive proof, it's easy to dismiss, or at least doubt the claims. Isn't it pleasing, though, to imagine a Bronze Age parent telling something that sounds very like "Jack and the Beanstalk" or "Beauty and the Beast" to a group of gathered children and think of them thrilling at the giant chasing Jack or the Beast being transformed into a man?  And if you're not satisfied with the simple romance of that idea, well you can find delve into the full depths of the research here.

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